So, it turns out July is a busy month for us, as far as birthdays go, anyhow. (And we’re not done yet!) Today we take a moment to celebrate my father’s birthday. Now, I do intend for this blog to be about and dedicated to my boys, but it is vital to me that they understand who they and where they came from. And… Grandpa Wayne is a huge part of who my boys are.
My father was the oldest of 6 children, a huge baby, and born breech. This is important to know, because I like to point out that he was a trouble maker from the very beginning. When I was younger, he’d tell me stories of his youth, and to be honest, most of them them began with a six pack of beer, involved a fast car and ended with a police man. (Well, most of the good ones, anyhow.) Apparently, things were different in those days, and boys were allowed to be boys… and yet somehow, despite all of this mischief, my father has been a most excellent role model in many ways.
I am my father’s only child. (Unless you count one of his motorcycles, snowmobiles or other ATVs.) He always wanted a son, but he got me, so he made do. Initially in my own life, he called me “Tattoo”, because I reminded him of the man in Fantasy Island at birth, with lots of dark hair and jaundice darkened skin. That nickname has stuck to this day, actually. He introduced me very often as his “son” though. He took me hunting, boating and on any other adventure he could think of. When I was young, I had mini-bikes, go carts, 3-wheelers, quad runners, snowmobiles, mopeds, BB Guns, and random farm animals. I actually had a few Chevettes to drive around a racetrack in the back yard. I also had a full sized basketball court in the back yard, and though I wasn’t actually a boy, all my toys seemed to attract the surrounding neighborhood boys. My father taught me how to hunt (NOT COOK), water ski, drive a boat and drive a car (Really, I could drive anything that moved, other than an airplane, I think).
When my father first met my would be husband, Ryan and I told him we had wanted to take out the quad runners earlier in the week. Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t have a hitch on his car so we left them. My father questioned my husband’s ability to drive a trailered vehicle, and after a quick demonstration, he was satisfied. The next time my father met my future husband, he had already purchased a baby blue Sonoma to pull the quads, in the off chance he was up North again when we were hoping to take the machines out. (He actually did a nice job pimping the Sonoma out, including a steering wheel cover and a skull shaped shifter.)
This is pretty much the kind of person my father is. He likes to go fast. He likes people to go fast with him. He loves outdoors, especially when water or snow is involved, and he loves to actually live life. This is pretty much the father I had always known, until the day he met my first son. At that time, my father was in a battle for his life, literally. He was diagnosed with an aggressive type of lung cancer which had already metastasized at the early age of 42. He had a biopsy, a surgery to remove part of his lung, chemotherapy, radiation and prophylactic radiation. At the time of diagnosis, his doctor felt it was unlikely he would live much more than six months. Ryan and I had decided that because my father fought bravely to live long enough to meet my son, he should be the first to hold him.
Now, remember that my father always wanted me to be a boy, so essentially, Jake, to him, was a gift from God. I watched my father develop a soft and tender side that I had no inclination existed. My father, off on disability and busy fighting cancer, came over every morning before I went to college, held Jake while I ate and showered, and would happily hold him any time I offered. He and Jake were the best of friends. That was the happiest I had ever seen my father. (And my stepmother, too.. but her birthday’s in May, so that’s a whole other blog.)
Then, Benjamin arrived. My dad was equally as excited to have another grandson around, and would tell me stories of things he and his brother had done when they were young. My father was quick to point out that Jacob and Benjamin were linked as early as the bible, and that Benjamin was Jacob’s favorite son in those stories. This moment felt as magical as when my father handed me a bible as Jake’s 1st present, and I turned immediately to a story that about Jacob watching the angels on the stairway to heaven. By the time Benjamin was born, I had already moved to Wisconsin. My father didn’t have the luxury of visiting as often as he had before, but he never let us forget that we were in his prayers and his thoughts, always.
While Jacob tended to favor his many grandmas, Benjamin has taken a special liking to his Grandpa Wayne. I think this is largely because Benjamin has become obsessed with the Mackinac Bridge and associates that with Grandpa Wayne’s house (because he lives the furthest North). Benjamin also LOVES to play in water, and Grandpa just so happens to have a boat or two at all times.I believe also that my father loves to cuddle and joke, and Benjamin, too, is a cuddler and a joker.
Though my father had found his soft and tender side, he still clung to his mischievous side. I made him promise me he would not get Jacob a motorized vehicle for his 1st Christmas. (Honestly, I have heard many times that he would strap my carseat to the back of his bike and drive me around while I was still a baby. And we wonder why I love derby…) My father promised, and he did deliver on that promise. Jacob received a beautiful Oak wood motorcycle rocking horse, complete with the V shape engine (but no motor) from his Grandpa Wayne & Grandma Jan. The next Christmas, I made my father promise me the same thing- NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES. That year, my dad decided to beat the system. Jake had found a battery powered four wheeler under Grandpa’s Christmas tree that year.
Technically, this sweet ride had a battery pack, not a “motor”. Jake loved it. And he was a natural born driver… Ben fits the quad now, and still loves it today.
But this is the type of grandfather my father has become. He is fabulous with the kids. He respects my rules, but does his best to entertain the kids, even if it means bending those rules as much as he can get away with… 🙂 He forces us to turn off our cell phones and video games in favor of enjoying nature and family. He reminds us that you don’t actually need batteries or gasoline to have fun, but you sure can have fun faster with them. He shows us that surviving life means fighting and being as strong as you can, while keeping your loved ones close.
My dad has already taught Jake how to drive a four wheeler and pontoon effectively, at the age of seven. I know he looks forward to teaching both boys to drive the boats while trailered and hitched to trucks (because that impresses future father in laws.) I also know there’s probably some learning to fish, hunt and water ski in the boy’s future with their Grandpa Wayne. I love my Dad for all he’s taught me, and I am very proud of him. I know that my boys will grow to know him in the same way that I do.
That being said, we love you, and “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDPA WAYNE!”